There are so many social media options available these days (Facebook, Twitter and MySpace, just to name three), that sometimes the “pull” to spend time on each of them can be a bit of a productivity drag. To say the least! And while it’s easy enough to go to Facebook, Twitter or MySpace and browse, it’s a lot more efficient to use one of the many notification programs around. These programs often sit in your taskbar, menu or panel, and create pop-up bubbles whenever a new post or update is available. If you aren’t one to spend hours browsing through user profiles, and just want the “news” then these are a great option.
Of course, too many of these and suddenly your menu or taskbar or panel is extremely cluttered. It would nice to be able to get all of your notifications in a single place. And why not add Gmail to it as well? A couple new extensions for Google Chrome, called Gmail Twitter Integration and Gmail Facebook Integration make that happen, for the most part. The work of one person – David Mulder – these Google Chrome extensions add both Twitter and Facebook updates to your Gmail inbox, making Gmail more than just an email inbox, it’s an inbox for Twitter and Facebook updates as well.
Using these extensions is simple. Once you’ve installed them from their respective Google Chrome Extensions pages (linked below), you’ll see two new entries in your Gmail sidebar. Below Inbox and All Mail will be Twitter and Facebook. Upon first installation, neither do anything, as you will still need to link your Twitter and Facebook accounts to Gmail, which gives them access to check your Twitter timeline and your Facebook updates stream. Once you’ve done this, you’ll be able to click either link and in the place where your email messages would normally be, you’ll see either your Twitter or Facebook updates stream.
Just a note: I needed to click the Twitter link twice in order to fully set it up, although Facebook worked after giving the extension permission to access my Facebook info. The Twitter extension was helpful, though, as it walked me through the process.
What can you do? These aren’t full-fledged Twitter or Facebook replacements, to be sure, but they are nice for those who simply want bare-boned, streamlined interfaces for both.
With the Twitter extension, you can read through new posts, reply to the original poster, or click the poster’s name to see a list of only their posts. You can also post new Tweets yourself, simply by typing in the input box at the top of the Twitter interface, then clicking your profile picture. This is the only way to post the Tweet (and the instruction text is inside the text entry field before you start typing), so although it doesn’t work quite like other clients, it does work.
The Facebook extension allows you to view the most recent Facebook updates, and reply to them as well. There is a star visible in both the Twitter and Facebook interfaces (similar to the star feature in Google Reader), but it doesn’t seem to be working at the moment. Regardless, you are also able to click the poster’s name and view their profile (in a different tab).
With Twitter, one more interface element is added to your Gmail inbox. Below the Chat box is a Twitter box. From here you can search Twitter, as well as see a list of your own Tweets, as well as a list of all Tweets that are replies to you.
As I said, it isn’t a full-featured Twitter client OR a full-featured Facebook replacement. But it is nice to be able to quickly view your any new updates or Tweets, along with checking your email. Having everything in a single place is nice, and I like the integration with the Gmail interface; it looks very Google-like. There’s really only a couple things I’d like to see. First would be notification of any new messages. I don’t want pop-ups, but if I have these extensions installed and I visit Gmail, I’d like to see the number of new updates or Tweets visible without first clicking on the Twitter or Facebook links. Similar to how the Inbox link becomes bold and has the number of new emails, I’d like to see the new updates/Tweets marked the same way. The other feature that would be nice is the ability to ONLY see new updates or Tweets. Similar to how Google Reader gives the option to see all posts from a certain blog or only the new ones, having the option with the Gmail Twitter or Facebook Integration extensions would be great.
Still, the fact that these extensions work at all is great. I’m sure there’s a lot of script hackery going on to make this possible, so it’s hard to complain too much. The features already present make these extensions very worthwhile to install and try out. If my “wish list” features were present I think they’d be that much better, but even without they’re pretty good and well worth the effort of installing and setting them up.
Gmail Twitter Integration:
Gmail Facebook Integration: